SANTA CLARA, Calif. — It took nine NFL seasons and sixth franchise for Brian Hoyer to come into training camp as the unquestioned starting quarterback of his team.
Signed by the San Francisco 49ers back in March to replace the departed Colin Kaepernick, Hoyer is entrenched as the starter to begin the team’s first camp under coach Kyle Shanahan.
With a familiar coach who believes in his ability after a successful season together in Cleveland in 2014 and a rebuilding team that has only untested Matt Barkley and third-round rookie C.J. Beathard behind him on the depth chart, Hoyer won’t need to win a training camp battle to earn the starting job this season.
“You don’t have to deal with the unknown a little bit when it comes to that,” Hoyer said. “That’s always nice, especially being a human being. You can tell yourself not to worry about things as much as you want to, but you know those thoughts creep up in your mind. So now just to be able to go out and focus and take control and know this is my team, this is my offense. It kind of eliminates that and you can just focus on the football side of it.”
Hoyer has seized that leadership role by organizing an informal summer workout in Texas with many of the team’s receivers to build up chemistry in the down period between minicamp and training camp.
How long he has it remains to be seen. The 49ers gave Hoyer only a two-year contract and could easily move on from if they make a run at Kirk Cousins next offseason and return him to his more usual backup role if they draft a quarterback in the first round.
Hoyer has heard that speculation but isn’t dwelling on it.
“I know from being in this league it’s about what have you done lately, so one whole year can change a lot of aspects on how people think about things,” he said. “So for me, like I said, to be able to go into training camp and not have to worry about a quote unquote competition, to be the guy to have gotten all the reps in the offseason, I feel very confident and very excited about going into this season.”
He has also served as a tutor to many of the players because of his deep knowledge of Shanahan’s offense from their year together with the Browns when Hoyer won seven of his 13 starts, throwing for a career-high 3,326 yards with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions.
That marked one of only two times that Hoyer has been an opening day starter in a career that began in New England as an undrafted free agent out of Michigan State in 2009.
After three seasons as one of Tom Brady’s backups with little chance of ever seeing the field, Hoyer moved on to Arizona in 2012 where he made his first career start before making stops in Cleveland, Houston and Chicago as part of his nomadic career.
“Brian believes in himself,” Shanahan said. “Brian wants an opportunity and that’s what he’s looking for year in and year out. For him to come here, he’s moved his family a bunch and to come here, I know why he’s doing it because he wants an opportunity to play. He’s not a guy who’s happy with just sitting on the bench and being a comfortable backup. A lot of people get like that in this time of their career, but not Brian.”
Hoyer beat out rookie Johnny Manziel with the Browns in 2014 and then Ryan Mallet in Houston the next year in competitions that weren’t decided until after the start of exhibition games.
Niners left tackle Joe Staley isn’t surprised Hoyer has lasted this long in the NFL as an undrafted free agent since getting to know him the past few months.
“He’s very, very competitive, one of the most competitive people I’ve been around,” Staley said. “I always pride myself on being the most competitive person. But he’s up there. He’s insatiable. He wants to win at everything he does. That’s a great quality to have in a teammate.”
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